Rankin County News, Brandon, MS

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Adam Moore, Journalist

Lovett finishes Appalachian Trail

Over 2000 miles and four and a half months later, Alan Lovett is finally done.

The Castlewoods resident and junior at Mississippi State University finished his thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail on Tuesday, July 12.  He arrived back home in Rankin County Monday afternoon.

"It's awesome to be surrounded by familiar stuff," he said.  "It's nice to have good food and sweet tea again."

But the homecoming was bittersweet for Lovett, who, though he now gets to shower and sleep in a bed every day, is already missing the freedom the trail offers.

As soon as he got to the summit of Mt. Katahdin, the trail's end point, he began to feel pangs of a return to normal, everyday life.

"When I got to the top of Katahdin, I was kind of bummed out," he said.  "I miss it already.  It's weird to live like that for almost five months and then completely change.

"It's the way of life out there that I'll miss.  The only thing I had to worry about was to get up and walk until I didn't feel like walking any more.  It's the most laid back lifestyle I could ever imagine."

While about 90 percent of the people who set out to thru-hike the trail--which begins in Georgia and ends at Katahdin in Maine--drop out somewhere along the way, he actually finished earlier than anticipated.  

Setting out on the last day of February, his backpack carried about 55 pounds of equipment.  Quickly learning what was essential and what could be mailed back home, Lovett had pared down to about 18 when he finished. 

And the loss of 25 pounds, combined with no hair cuts or shaves for over four months has left him looking a little different from the eager young man who left Mississippi in late February.

The thru-hike was the culmination of a lifetime dream for Lovett, one that, though kept him away from school for a semester, received the blessings of the honors and kinesiology departments at MSU.

He now has the task of writing a paper on his experiences and documenting the changes his body underwent while on the trail.

Records and journals kept on the trail will provide the groundwork for this paper--a whole semester worth of work to be done in just a few weeks.

It seems a daunting task, but Lovett has plenty to keep him looking on the bright side: nearly five months of memories of what he says will be the most memorable experience of his life.

"It was an amazing experience," he said.  "I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world.  I still don't know what to say about it."

It will almost be a bigger adjustment to come back to this life than it was to leave it behind this past winter.

After beginning the long drive back home--his parents met him in Maine--news events like the London bombings reminded him that life is different here.

In the "real world," people are not always willing to help others out.

The people who live along the trail, Lovett said, were some of the genuinely nicest people he could ever meet in his life.

Homeowners will offer their showers to thru-hikers.  Motorists will offer a ride and enough money for a hot meal to the hikers.

On the trail, everyone has one goal: to get to the top of the big heap of rock called Mt. Katahdin.  It was the last, and the defining moment of the whole trek.

"The best part was seeing the sign at the top of Katahdin," he said.  "That's pretty much the favorite part for everyone."

And though they share his joy at the feat he has accomplished, his friends and family are glad to have him back.

"It's good to have him back here," said his mother, Charlotte Lovett. "I'm proud of him.

"He has really accomplished something.  It's more than just a dream come true."




Alan Lovett finally reached the top of Mt. Katahdin at the end of the Appalachian Trail on Tuesday, July 12.  Lovett set out to thru-hike the trail over four months ago, starting in Georgia and working his way up to Katahdin in Maine.